Richard Boll

Category Archives: Artists

My journey from Film to Digital Photography

0
Filed under Artists, Fine Art Photography, Photography career, Photography education

Producing black and white prints in a darkroom at school fuelled my passion for photography. As corny as it sounds, seeing the images appear and develop in the tray of developer is a magical and spellbinding experience.

Differences between Film & Digital

What I think can be missing when working with digital is the tactile, hands-on element you get working with photographic film. The process allows you to consider every element very carefully, particularly focus, exposure and composition. Learning how to load the film into tanks in complete darkness, mixing all the chemistry correctly and to the right temperature to develop the film and produce negatives, is a meditative and thoughtful process. Most professional photographers find that the process isn’t practical however in the commercial world. Digital is the way forward as it’s far more efficient than processing film, but I do miss the creative and unique element that’s not always carried over into digital photography.

With film, you might wait days, or even weeks if you’re travelling, before you find out how the images turned out. With digital, you can check the images that you produce immediately. The ability to do this is very convenient but you lose that element of extra concentration applied to shooting film that I think can be beneficial to the end result.

a-5x4-large-format-camera-on-a-tripod

My journey to digital photography

When I was studying photography in the late 90s, I was taught purely on film and then I went on to teach people on film myself. Digital was starting to become more prevalent whilst I was teaching and I started to demonstrate digital cameras to my students. In those days, we didn’t have significant digital printers like photography departments would have now. I was largely self-taught when it came to digital. When I became a commercial photographer, I opted to go digital straightaway. I invested £6k in my first camera, plus more for the lenses and lighting equipment. I taught myself about the different file types, researching as much as I could and studying Photoshop textbooks to bring me up to speed.

I still use techniques today that I picked up then. Especially the shortcuts, such as cropping an image to the right size, setting up DPI (dots per inch) correctly for a printed image, manipulating images i.e. dodging (taking light away) and burning (applying additional light),
adjusting and converting colour and contrast, etc. There are certain elements that translate from film to digital. For example, a lot of the language that’s used for Photoshop tools references darkroom principles and processes.

Advantages of digital photography

One of the advantages of digital is an efficient workflow, such as bulk processing of images. You can apply the same adjustments to 500 images in one go, for example, rather than changing every single one as you go along. Even if you were a skilled darkroom technician, it’d be hard to make every print identical. Whereas, once you have the digital file you can make multiple identical prints.

Storage archiving is another significant benefit of working with digital. Back in the day, you would have had several filing cabinets full of negatives that you’d have to create a system for, and it’d be difficult to go back and find a negative that you shot 20 years ago. Nowadays, if a client asks for a particular image, you can easily search a large drive and find the image that you want in seconds, rather than hours.

Another significant difference between film and digital is the cost attached to film. You’re very aware when you’re shooting film that it’s costing you money. Each exposure has the cost of not just the film but also the processing costs.
I’m certainly not taking away the huge advantages of digital, which I very much appreciate day to day in my working life. But processing film will always hold a special place for me. There may be an element of nostalgia but whenever I get the rare opportunity to produce black and white prints, I still feel the same excitement today that I had at school all those years ago.

Read more about How I started my career as a professional photographer.

UK Visual Artist Photographic Portraits 1 of 4: Gavin Turk – artist and sculptor, YBA and Saatchi ‘Sensation’ Exhibitor

0
Filed under Artists, Editorial Photography, Editorial Portrait, Environmental Portrait, Fine Art Photography, Gavin Turk, London, Portrait Photography

UK Visual Artist Portrait Series

When I initially developed an interest in photography and started learning about well-known artists and photographers, I appreciated seeing photographic portraits of them in my research. Even though I didn’t know who these people were at the time, an interesting portrait can tell a visual story and open a window into that person’s world. I found it very intriguing and was curious about why that person had been photographed in a particular way. I recently decided that I’d like to continue this rich photographic tradition by taking a series of photographs of well-known visual artists currently working in the UK.

Gavin Turk

The first set of images in this series features Gavin Turk, a British-born, world-renowned international artist, and one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs were a group of visual artists who were noted for shock tactics, use of throwaway materials, and often controversial works of art. They attracted considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the ‘Cool Britannia’ scene of the 90s.

Turk’s work deals with issues of authorship, authenticity, and identity. He has pioneered many forms of contemporary British sculpture now taken for granted, including the painted bronze, the waxwork, the recycled art-historical icon, and the use of rubbish in art. Spotted by the art collector Charles Saatchi, he was invited to take part in ‘Sensation’, the highly controversial contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) in 1997. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this significant exhibition drew a lot of media attention at the time and showcased work by 42 different artists, including Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

On the day of the shoot, I spent around three hours at Gavin’s studio in East London. The original concept that I had for this visual artist series was to take a range of photographs with four distinct elements depicting images of the artist and their work: behind-the-scenes studio shots, details referencing their work and processes, the artist at work (where possible) and more formal photographic portraits.

a-photographic-portrait-of-the-british-artist-gavin-turk-with-his-signature-written-in-the-air

This image is a reference to Turk’s work on identity and the frequent use of signatures in his work and also mimics a project carried out by the photographer Gjon Mili, who photographed Picasso drawing in the air with a torch. The effect of this portrait was created by taking a long exposure of Gavin writing his name in the air with a torch and then firing a flash to expose the room in which the photograph was taken.

a-double-black-and-white-photographic-portrait-of-the-artist-gavin-turk

This double portrait combines two photographic portraits taken in quick succession and references Turk’s artwork: ‘Portrait of something that I’ll never really see’ (1997), a self-portrait of the artist from the neck up with his eyes closed against a blank background.

an-interior-photograph-of-the-studio-of-british-artist-gavin-turk

a-photograph-of-collected-items-on-the-shelves-in-the-studio-of-gavin-turk

These photographs of the interior of Turk’s studio provide an insight into the artist’s work and his influences. I’d like to thank Gavin for being so open to my ideas and generous with his time on the day of the shoot. It was a particular pleasure for me both to meet him and to take portraits of him. It’s also been great to see some of the images I’ve taken being shared on the artists’ website and social media platforms.

Watch this space for features on 3 more visual artists, currently working in the UK that I’ve also photographed, namely Adam Chodzko, Gordon Cheung, and Jake Wood-Evans. Future plans include an exhibition of the complete series of portraits of visual artists working in the UK today.

Discover more about Gavin Turk and his work by visiting his website and read about the controversial 1997 ‘Sensation’ exhibition here. More of my photographic portraiture can be seen here.